Pyatt crashes Flyers net in Game 3 victory

MONTREAL -- Tom Pyatt spent nearly half of the regular season in the American Hockey League. If his performance on Thursday night is any indication, he's seen the last of the minor leagues.

The 23-year-old played a pivotal role in the Montreal Canadiens' 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals as he chipped in with a goal and an assist to help the Habs cut the series deficit to 2-1. Game 4 will be played at the Bell Centre Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

Pyatt was able to contribute offensively in Game 3 due to his ability to crash the net and cash in on the second and third opportunities that the Canadiens failed to create for themselves in the first two games of this series, both shutouts. But Pyatt wreaked havoc on Michael Leighton Thursday night and poked home a rebound late in the first period that gave Montreal a 2-0 lead.

"We didn't have that in the first two games," Pyatt told Friday after the team held an optional skate at its practice facility. "We were playing too much on the perimeter. I think (Thursday) night we did a better job of getting bodies in front and screening their goalie, because he was seeing everything the first two games. We did a better job of getting to the net."

The Canadiens will likely use the same mentality Saturday, when they hope to turn the Eastern Conference Finals into a best-of-three. Receiving offensive contributions from players such as Pyatt and Dominic Moore -- who also scored in Game 3 -- helps relieve pressure from the likes of Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, who have taken on much of that burden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"That's something that has to continue," Pyatt said. "We can't expect them to score every game. Teams that go really far in the playoffs, they have contributions from every line. That has to continue."

Thursday's tally was just Pyatt's second of the playoffs as he's admittedly spent much of this postseason trying to help keep the puck out of his own net. Pyatt, who had 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games for AHL Hamilton this season, is confident he can chip in more offensively in the NHL.

"That's my goal ... to be a solid two-way player at this level," said Pyatt, who had 43 goals in his final season of junior hockey with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) in 2006-07. "I'm just trying to get out of my shell. I'm always concentrating on playing defense, but I want to develop that offensive game a bit more. It's a slow process for me, but I always seem to figure it out."

"Tom has been great," Moore said. "He's very poised. He has excellent speed as we know, but he can make plays as well. He's been great and we enjoy playing with him."

Ice time will obviously continue to be a key for Pyatt, who played 15:53 in Game 3. He's grateful for the opportunities Canadiens coach Jacques Martin has provided him throughout this postseason.

"Jacques is putting me in key situations, especially at the end of games when we're defending a lead," Pyatt said. "That gives me confidence, having him put me out there. My confidence is building every game. This experience is crucial for me."

Having several teammates who have won championships is a boon for Pyatt, as he can lean on those veterans for advice when needed. They've been very impressed with the former fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers (No. 107, 2005).

"What can you say? He's been a spark for all of us," Scott Gomez said of Pyatt. "Not only that, but off the ice he's a wonderful kid. He's a good player. He's smart and he is always in the right place on the ice. He's doing his job, working really hard. He goes to the net and our team really needs that type of player."

Indeed, the Canadiens do. Considering how effective he was on Thursday night, Pyatt may very well prove to be Montreal's long-term solution in that department.

"It's amazing how things turned around for me over the year," Pyatt said. "I'm just so happy to be a part of this team and this long playoff run. It's a special time for me."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL